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Media Watch 2004

21 May 2004
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Philippos Stylianou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 24 May 2004.
AHI spearheads drive to change Washington's views on Cyprus
"In his detailed reference to the Annan Plan before the Subcommittee, Rossides said “the British had the primary influence in drafting the proposal, with US support and acquiescence” and noted that the plan “perpetuates the undemocratic features and ethnic divisions of the London-Zurich agreements... the Annan Plan was undemocratic because it gave minority veto powers to the 18% of Turkish Cypriots in both the executive and the legislature. Furthermore, its complicated provisions made it unworkable, it violated the UN Charter and UN resolutions, subverted property rights, perpetuated the militarisation of the island, kept 100,000 illegal Turkish settlers there and proposed clearly unfair territorial adjustments""

PHILIPPOS STYLIANOU speaks to Eugene Rosside

GREEK Americans are up in arms against the US government’s support for the Annan plan and the critical stance it is showing towards the Greek Cypriots for rejecting it in the April 24 referendum.

Spearheaded by the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), which was instrumental in imposing the US arms embargo on Turkey following its invasion of Cyprus in 1974, the powerful Greek lobby is determined to counter Washington’s views as not being in the best interests of the United States.

In an interview with The Cyprus Weekly while visiting Nicosia this week, AHI President Eugene Rossides described the Annan Plan as harsh and biased against the Greek Cypriots and he also spoke of a “scurrilous attack on them by British personalities and unfortunately by certain American personalities.”

He said that while the plan could be made more positive, the question still remained why something so obviously unacceptable to one of the sides was submitted in the first place.

Devious manoeuvre
“I cannot find any explanation other than a devious manoeuvre by the British and unfortunately by my Government to blame the Greek Cypriots if they rejected the plan,” Rossides said.

He went on to say that the AHI had sharply criticised the actions of the US Government, particularly their dealing with the Turkish Cypriots as if they were some kind of a valid regime in the north of the island.

”We expressed these comments in letters to our President and to the Secretary of State and we’ll be doing a lot more. And, in the months ahead, we believe we’ll be successful in turning around certain views. We may not be successful in changing the views of certain people in the administration, but we’ll certainly have views expressed that will be directly contrary to the official comments being made recently,” the AHI President said.

Eugene Rossides gave the Annan plan and its instigators a dressing down in his testimony to the Congress Appropriations Subcommittee on US aid to Cyprus and Turkey, on May 13.

He urged the Congress to approve $13.5m in aid to Cyprus for bicommunal programmes, but to withhold $100m to Turkey because of its “consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognised human rights” in Turkey and in Cyprus, amongst other reasons.

Ethnic divisions
In his detailed reference to the Annan Plan before the Subcommittee, Rossides said “the British had the primary influence in drafting the proposal, with US support and acquiescence” and noted that the plan “perpetuates the undemocratic features and ethnic divisions of the London-Zurich agreements.”

He specifically stated that the Annan Plan was undemocratic because it gave minority veto powers to the 18% of Turkish Cypriots in both the executive and the legislature. Furthermore, its complicated provisions made it unworkable, it violated the UN Charter and UN resolutions, subverted property rights, perpetuated the militarisation of the island, kept 100,000 illegal Turkish settlers there and proposed clearly unfair territorial adjustments.

Rossides in his testimony said that the US should have supported changes to the Annan Plan during the negotiations to make it democratic, workable, viable and just.

“The US support of the British manoeuvred Annan Plan is, frankly, an embarrassment to our foreign policy,” he said and added that rather than supporting undemocratic norms, the US should promote with consistency and vigour the democratic policy espoused by Vice President George H W Bush - the present US president’s father - who in 1988 had declared: “We seek for Cyprus a constitutional democracy based on majority rule, the rule of law, and the protection of minority rights.”

Speaking to the Cyprus Weekly, Eugene Rossides said it was not in the US interests to have an island in which there was ethnic strife and pitting one group against the other, according to the typical British system started in the 1950s.

The key man
“This is 2004 and we have to have a change,” he emphasised.

Asked how far the Bush government would go in ‘punishing’ the Greek Cypriots and supporting the Turkish Cypriots, Rossides said:

“It’s too early to tell. A handful of people are responsible for this policy, who convinced the President to adopt it. In the State Department, the main person who has proposed these policies regarding the Annan Plan is Undersecretary of Political Affairs Marc Grossman. He is the key man who has given the advice to State Secretary Colin Powell and he expressed it.”

At this point Rossides noted that the Cyprus problem in the US was not even a second level issue but a third level one and unfortunately proper attention was not paid to it.

“So, for the last dozen years, Grossman has been running the policy regarding Cyprus, Turkey and Greece from the State Department. You have only a handful of people in the Defence Department, too. They are Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of State for Policy Affairs Douglas Feidh and the former Defence Policy Board member Richard Pearl.

"The latter has been forced to resign from the board after being exposed for financial profit-making in Iraq, but he still has an influence because Feidh is his protege.”

The main concern of Grossman and Wolfowitz, Rossides said, was not Cyprus or the Turkish Cypriots, but Turkey and their belief that getting Turkey in the EU is more important to the US than the rule of law and democratic institutions.

“Our effort will continue to be to counter that; we think we are making some headway, and clearly the errors that Wolfowitz and Grossman made in Iraq should be understood by the American people,” Rossides said.

Invasion blotted out
He added that the AHI together with other Greek American organisations will try to interject the Cyprus issue into the US presidential race. Right now, they are in the process of preparing a memorandum for the Democratic candidate John Kerry, exposing as false and misleading the statements of the Bush administration about the Annan plan being fair and balanced.

“The worst thing about the Annan plan is that it attempts to blot out that there was ever a Turkish invasion in Cyprus. It astonishes me that grown-up adults in our government can blithly ignore these things. We’ll exert every effort to make changes, but you have to understand it takes time,” Rossides said.

He pointed out that unlike in the 1950s when undemocratic decisions were forced on the Cypriots, this time they had a voice as an independent state and now as an EU member, which they should use to the maximum.

He suggested President Papadopoulos pays more visits to the United States to present his government’s views on the recent developments of the Cyprus problem.

“He doesn’t have to have an official invitation to visit the United States”, Rossides noted.

“Those days have been over for a long time. Heads of state come to the US for a lot of purposes other than meeting with our president. And it shouldn’t be only Washington and New York. We want him in other cities as well, where there are important universities, research and foreign policy centres.”

Asked if attempts to brand President Papadopoulos as a ‘rejectionist,’ even likening him to occupation leader Rauf Denktash, were gaining ground in the US, Rossides was categorical: “None whatsoever. That may have worked when the British branded Makarios as the ‘Castro of the Mediterranean’ back in the 1950s because they controlled all the media, but we live in a different world today, with instant communications through cables and satellites that enable everybody to be heard worldwide."

Replying to another question if from his meeting with President Papadopoulos he got the impression that there was a defined policy on how to handle the post-referendum situation, Rossides said:

“I’ve known President Papadopoulos for a number of years and have an extremely high regard for him, so I may be biased in his favour in a sense, but I feel he is in full command of the situation. And as he has said, negotiations will start again at some point; the Cyprus problem will not go away, it’s there, the Annan plan proposals that need to be modified are there and he is getting ready. And the timing of making proposals has to be determined by the National Council.”

AHI executive director Nick Larigakis was present at Rossides’ interview with the Cyprus Weekly.

THE American Hellenic Institute was founded on August 1 1974, following Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus with illegal use of American-supplied arms.

AHI initiated the rule of law issue in the Congress in the interests of the US, thus changing the face of American politics.

The AHI is an independent non-profit organisation supported by dues from members and friends in the US, Greece and Cyprus.

The American Hellenic Institute Public Affairs Committee (AHIPAC) was established in early 1975 to concentrate on lobbying. AHIPAC is the only Greek American organisation registered with the US Congress under the Lobbying Act.

“We are a small organisation and need funds to grow larger,” AHI executive director Nick Larigakis said, inviting visitors to their website at www.ahiworld.org."